View over Jakarta by night

How to explore old and new Jakarta

Jakarta is, and always has been, a city for those who love fast living – even if the traffic is notoriously slow. And while the Indonesian capital has reinvented itself time and again, echoes of its gloriously rich past survive, creating a unique and curious blend of old and new

Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room at the Museum MACAN

Art and Culture

The colonial old town Batavia, or Kota Tua, as it is officially called, was once home to the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company – the city was a Dutch colonial post for more than 300 years – and many of the colonial buildings now house major museums. Take the Fatahillah Museum for example, which tells the story of the city from prehistoric times right through to the founding of Jayakarta.

Step inside Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s much-loved Infinity Mirrored Room at the popular Museum MACAN. This particular artwork is part of the permanent collection, which focuses on modern and contemporary art from Indonesia, Europe, America, and Asia. More than 800 of the works are from the private collection of Haryanto Adikoesoemo, the museum’s founder.

There can be few better ways to introduce children to gallery-going than the interactive digital art installations at the teamLab Future Park Jakarta. The mind-popping colour and light art amusement park experience occupies a 2,000 square-metre space within a shopping mall.

Monas National Monument, Jakarta


This bustling city of more than ten million people – 30 million in the greater metro area – is made up of imposing glass skyscrapers sitting not far from haphazard kampung settlements. Sample the street food from the kaki lima carts, stroll through the green Taman Suropati park in the heart of the city, and get a bird’s eye view by climbing the striking flame-capped Monas, or national monument, which commemorates the struggle for independence and unity. It offers Jakarta’s best city views and symbolises the Hindu deities of Shiva and Shakti (Lingga and Yoni) in its form.

Wisma 46 may not be the tallest building in Jakarta anymore, but with its distinctive fountain-pen silhouette, the towering office block is still one of the most iconic. As is Istiqlal Mosque, Southeast Asia’s largest mosque and another architectural beauty, inside and out. The building can accommodate a staggering 120,000 visitors and was designed to represent the plurality of Indonesia. It’s close to another religious landmark, the neogothic Jakarta Cathedral.

Private dinging room of Lyon at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta

Food and Drink

Head into the stylish and very last century Café Batavia for a taste of the city’s past, or try the delicious dumplings of Jakarta’s Chinatown just a ten-minute stroll away, both in the old town Kota Tua.

For classic French fine dining, such as beef bourguignon and bouillabaisse, look no further than the chic Lyon at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta. It also has one of the best wine selections in the city with a variety of French vintages.

A serious competitor for Jakarta’s best views is the Skye bar at the 56th floor rooftop of the BCA Tower, close to Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta. Order a Skye Sour and a serving of calamari and chicken sliders and watch the busy streets of Jakarta below. For the best coffee in town, visit Giyanti Coffee Roastery in Menteng.

Grand Indonesia shopping centre at night, backdropped by the twinkling skyline

Shopping and souvenirs

Whether you are looking for batik (wax-dyed) fabrics or high-end brands, there’s plenty of choice. Just across from the Selamat Datang (Welcome) Monument and Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta is the Grand Indonesia mall. But perhaps the best place to find Indonesia’s de facto national attire of batik-adorned clothing, is just around the corner at the expansive Thamrin City shopping complex. It stocks all manner of batik designs, from all over Indonesia.

The proudly Indonesian store Tulisan (the name means ‘handwriting’ in Indonesian Bahasa) offers distinct bright and bold artist designed items such as aprons, bags, cushion covers and coin purses.

Kemala Home Living offers expertly crafted modern homewares, including ceramics and wood items, many carved from local teak. The wooden plates are finished with food grade wax and the woven baskets and placemats are made with raffia, sisal and water hyacinth.

Mandarin Oriental Jakarta
Come Stay with Us
Mandarin Oriental Jakarta

Jalan M.H. Thamrin PO BOX 3392, Jakarta 10310, Indonesia

+62 (21) 2993 8888

Table set up for service in a private dining room at Li Feng

A concierge’s guide to Jakarta

From fine dining to niche museums, our concierge shares her tips on what to do in the Indonesian capital